I used to believe all the spiritual, New Age, self-help assertions; all those depressing ultimatums. You know the ones:

You can’t really love another until you love yourself.

You don’t know true forgiveness until you forgive yourself.

You can’t blah blah blah until you blah blah blah yourself.

I call bullshit.

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I’ve been loving and forgiving and accepting other people for a long time, and I still haven’t mastered doing it with myself. I’ve gotten a lot better at it, to be sure, but I’m a hell of a lot more likely to accept things in those I love than I am to accept the same things in myself. For now, anyway.

It’s a lot harder to love and forgive and accept ourselves than it is to do with others – especially those we care about the most. If we waited to get to the point of full-blown self-love before we dared to love anyone else, this would be a desperately lonely planet.

Don’t let these spiritual rules prevent you from taking positive steps in your life. If you’re feeling ready to love someone, then love someone. You don’t need fixing first. If that person loves you back, beautiful. If not, then you’ll have to move on until you’re inspired to love another someone.

There’s something to be said for the growth that comes from engaging in loving relationships—with friends, family, lovers, whomever. This is where we practice love and forgiveness and acceptance. This is where we do a lot of the work. And it’s in others we can see where we have more work to do, and where we’re kicking some serious spiritual ass.

We humans are built for connection, and it’s through connection with others that we learn the most about ourselves. It’s through connection with others that we heal ourselves. I can’t count the number of times it was through the eyes and hearts of my loved ones that I was able to see myself as worthy of love. Their love got me back on track, so I could keep moving toward my own love for myself.

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We need each other.

I’m not trash-talking the idea of self-love and forgiveness. Everything in life becomes brighter, more fulfilling, more meaningful, the more we love ourselves. That’s not so much a rule as a given. Love leads to great realities. The deeper the love, the greater the realities. And yes, I believe, that the greater my capacity for self-love, the greater my capacity to love others. But we can still love others just fine as we are.

Love is everywhere—within us, around us, over and under and in between us—and it’s huge. Even the smallest dose of love packs immense power. Even when we’re at our most self-pitying, loathsome lows, we can still give love to the people in our lives, and those people will feel it, even when we’re not feeling it for ourselves.

That’s how love plays.

Here’s a rule I like to live by: Don’t feel the need to listen to any rules that in any way pull you away from love or suggest you are not in a place to give and receive love. We’re always in a place to give and receive love, to the best of our abilities. And there’s always work to be done to give and receive more openly and generously. That’s the nature of being human.

Just pay attention when you read “spiritual” things and it’s your mind that’s barking “yes yes yes” while your gut is whispering “I’m not sure about that.” Our guts tend to be a lot more in tune with love than our minds. A lot less willing to be fed the blah blah blahs of erroneous spiritual rules.

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